Prolonged Uncertainty

The clinic has been open for a week. Some clients and therapists met there. Our staff – Rivkah, Naama, Chavi and Deena were exceedingly successful in creating a safe and certain pattern during this first week, and to them we are all grateful.

To all appearances, this first week will redouble itself many times before there is any significant change. Our therapists and clients have no reliable access to something upon which expectations could be pinned. The virus is diminishing or rising? Has it passed or is it coming back? A “second wave” – when, how, for how long?

What we contend with now is a “present tense” that does not flash by, but remains hovering indefinitely. Is there something to learn from this, that may help us in our work?

The “prolonged present” experience is a little over 120 years old in Western culture. It became expressed in film, where a scene could be repeated or slowed down, in literature that could extend the present moment in the writings of James Joyce and Marcel Proust, and in the philosophy of Henri Bergson. In psychotherapy it is expressed best in Daniel Stern’s The Present Moment that appeared in 2004.

But in our tradition the extended present moment has always been with us. The Torah has never been “time bound” but rather eternal. “Time” has never forced itself upon our practices; we create our own time, define time by mitzvahs, even have  different times for the Beis HaMikdosh [night follows day] and for the rest of the world [day follows night]. Perhaps the Mishnah chose to begin with these times to free us from the bounds of time that controls us, to give us a handle on what is beyond “objective” time.

So, it would be only natural if we bring this kind of time into our practice with our clients. In the West this is connoted as “here and now” as some sort of special awareness. I think it is a natural awareness for our tradition. Two people, one a therapist and one a client, meet in the eternal present. There is a past, there is a future, but what transpires, what “happens,” the realm of co-creation that absorbs us, is now, only now.

The “Corona” prolonged uncertainty provides an opportunity for us to put aside planning and expectations and focus on the event of our meeting with our clients. It gives us a space for a higher resolution, a kind of “chronological magnifying glass,” to pay attention to what is happening between ourselves and our clients in each meeting. I encourage all of us to use this opportunity well.